The Problem of Time in Joel


Scholarship on the book of Joel has long been vexed by the wayyiqtol verb forms in 2:18–19a. Ibn Ezra suggested that they are analogous to the prophetic perfect, expressing certainty about the outcome, while Adalbert Merx suggested that they should be read as simple wāw + jussive, and Julius Bewer argued that the imperative forms in 2:15–16 should be read as simple qatal forms, enabling vv. 15–17 to be read as a report of the people’s response to the exhortation of vv. 12–14. More recent studies of Joel 2 have found it difficult to explain the interchange of qatal and yiqtol verbs in vv. 2–11. Some have explained these as signaling the intrusion of redactional materials, while others have sought to accommodate them under a tense or aspectual understanding of the verbal system. Still others have despaired of finding a solution and have adopted readings of the verbs based solely on the context. Both of these problems are, however, amenable to rather straightforward solutions. On the one hand, the wayyiqtol verbs of 2:18–19a come into focus once we recognize the narrative structure of the book. The wayyiqtol verbs are embedded in speech by the narrator, whose voice was last heard in 1:4. On the other hand, the qatal and yiqtol verbs in 2:3–11 follow typical morphosyntactic and morphosemantic patterns, once we take into account their discourse settings, particularly the pragmatics of their clauses.